What is a Critical Control Point?

Critical control points (CCPs) are the steps in your process that are necessary to prevent or eliminate food safety hazards. Find out how to identify CCPs in your business.
June 21, 2019

A critical control point (CCP) is a step in the food production process where preventative measures can be applied to prevent, reduce or eliminate a food safety hazard, such as bacterial growth or chemical contamination. Critical control points exist at every stage of the process, from purchasing ingredients to the moment the product is consumed.

How to identify critical control points

To identify the critical control points in your food business, you must first identify all of the food safety hazards that could reasonably occur. Food safety hazards are classified as biological, chemical or physical, but a particular agent often poses multiple hazards. For example, a hair in your soup is both a physical hazard and a biological hazard, because the hair will be teeming with bacteria and other microorganisms.

To help identify hazards and critical control points, it helps to imagine how food and ingredients move through your business. Let’s say you’re a full-service restaurant and your most popular menu item is a grilled chicken sandwich. Deconstruct the sandwich into its ingredients and map how each ingredient moves from point A to point B (and so on).

Typically, that goes something like this:

  1. purchasing
  2. receiving
  3. storing
  4. preparation
  5. cooking
  6. plating
  7. serving

In between each of these steps, you or your Food Handlers perform critically important tasks that are absolutely essential to ensuring the safety of the food. Using the example above (a grilled chicken sandwich), some of those critically important tasks would include:

  • storing raw chicken in your refrigerator at a temperature of 5°C or below to slow down the growth of bacteria
  • cooking chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 75°C to kill bacteria

In short, a critical control point is a task that must be done to prevent, reduce or eliminate a food safety hazard. Other tasks related to the preparation of a dish may not be critically important for safety (e.g. garnishing or visual presentation of food), and therefore are not critical control points. If skipping the step won’t hurt anybody or make them sick, you can be reasonably sure it’s not a CCP.

Critical control point decision trees

One strategy that can be used to help identify critical control points in your food business is a decision tree. CCP decision trees can be helpful for you to visualise and identify the food safety hazards that exist in your business, but they aren’t a mandatory requirement of a Food Safety Program.

Critical control point decision trees are basically flow charts. After making a list of all the steps in your food production process, you can use the CCP decision tree to determine whether or not that step is, in fact, vital for food safety. 

It’s important to remember that there is no generic template that can be used to determine the critical control points in your business. Every food business is different, and many different factors determine the types of food safety risks that exist in the business and the critical control points that must be used to manage food safety. For example:

  • food ingredients and packaging
  • food and beverage suppliers
  • policies and procedures
  • equipment and preparation surfaces
  • food safety training programs
  • number of Food Safety Supervisors in the business
  • physical layout of the premises

Conducting a hazard analysis and identifying critical control points are time-consuming exercises, but they are absolutely necessary to ensure food safety in your business. In fact, they are principles one and two of the seven principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), which form the basis of Food Safety Programs worldwide.

HACCP principles can help you to take control of the food safety risks in your business and protect your customers (and your business) from the consequences of a food safety incident. Find out how to build a Food Safety Program using HACCP principles.

Food safety in Australia

Food businesses in Australia are required to have and implement a Food Safety Program to control hazards and to protect the public from food poisoning, food allergens and other health risks. They must also adhere to food safety standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, the federal standard for food safety in Australia.

Anyone who handles, prepares, serves or transports food, or cleans food equipment / utensils must undergo food safety training if they haven’t already demonstrated the required skills. In most states and territories in Australia, food businesses are also required to nominate and certify a Food Safety Supervisor, who will take responsibility for food safety in the business.

In all other states and territories, a Food Safety Supervisor is strongly recommended to ensure compliance with Australian food safety laws and standards.

Laws and requirements around food safety training in Australia can be complex and confusing — but food safety training doesn’t have to be. The Australian Institute of Food Safety offers a Food Safety Supervisor online course, which allows your nominated employee to complete the mandatory food safety training online, eliminating the need to take time off of work or travel to an in-class course.

The AIFS Food Safety Supervisor online course covers all the critical food safety information and knowledge required to manage the food safety risks in any food business, from cafes to corner stores. After completing the Food Safety Supervisor online course, your nominated employee will receive a Statement of Attainment listing the units of competency they have obtained.

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